Our Building and Mission
A Reflection by the Rev. John E. Denaro, Rector
St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church
November 17, 2017
I will always remember the time a colleague of mine showed me around her church while proudly sharing a long list of parish programs and then saying, “Our building has a mission.”
We can surely say as much about our own landmark church building. St. Ann & the Holy Trinity is first and foremost a house of worship that has long played a larger role in the wider community. We inherited a legacy of diverse and experimental uses of our sacred space and continue to serve here as a center for civic engagement and the arts in Downtown Brooklyn.
Last weekend at the 151st Convention of the Diocese of Long Island, our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, announced his plan to designate St. Ann & the Holy Trinity as the pro-cathedral of the diocese. This decision honors our ministry at St. Ann’s and is certain to expand further our building’s mission.
A pro-cathedral is traditionally a provisional diocesan center and seat of the bishop while a cathedral is being constructed or repaired. In this case, Bp. Provenzano intends for the long-established diocesan center and the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City to remain, in his words, “the heart of our diocese.” He will put a second bishop’s chair (cathedra in Latin) in St. Ann’s and establish our church as a place from which he can speak to the issues that affect the many Episcopalians in Brooklyn and Queens. Our church will serve more frequently as host to diocesan liturgies and events. We otherwise will continue to function as a parish church.
Here is an excerpt from the bishop’s address in which he explains how his decision helps to reclaim our building’s identity:
As some of you may recall, the Diocese of Long Island was brought into being in a special convention gathered in the church building which today is St. Ann & the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn. The diocese was voted into being on November 18, 1868, and on the next day, the rector of that parish, the Rev. Abram Littlejohn, was elected our first bishop.
Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, now St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, is the mother church of the diocese, and served as the pro-cathedral of the diocese until 1885 when the Cathedral of the Incarnation was consecrated.
In this coming 150th anniversary year, it is our intention to designate St. Ann & the Holy Trinity as a pro-cathedral once again. This designation is not a canonical or legal move; it does not make the rector of the parish a dean or transplant the significant and central role of our cathedral.
It is, however, pastoral, spiritual, and historic in nature. As a pro-cathedral, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity will once again serve as a place from which the bishop of Long Island, and in fact the whole diocese, can speak to the City of New York and address the ministry and needs of the ever-increasing population of Brooklyn and Queens in which 5 million of the 8.2 million people of New York City currently reside.
It is my intention to celebrate this re-designation during an afternoon liturgy on Sunday, September 16, 2018, at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity. It is my sincere hope that we can use this liturgical event as a part of our 150th anniversary celebration and as an occasion for evangelism and witness, creating opportunities for teaching and pastoral care, invitation and welcome for all people. People from throughout the diocese should be invited to come and be a part of this liturgy and engage the rich tradition of our diocesan life and history.
This exciting development brings with it many questions about the nature and implications of serving as the pro-cathedral that we expect to have answered by the bishop and the Trustees of the Estate of the Diocese of Long Island in the coming months. Together, we must engage in discerning what it means for St. Ann & the Holy Trinity to be a church for our neighbors and community, as well as for Brooklyn, Queens and all of our sister parishes.
But let’s start celebrating our building’s expanding mission now, and embrace with renewed joy the mission of service to God’s people that has been entrusted to us, as we live and dream our way into a new identity!